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Will Democrats forfeit the 2012 election like they did the 1980 election?
In 1980 President Jimmy Carter was in trouble with voters because of economic conditions and the capture of the American embassy in Iran by students. Democrats decided to renominate him in spite of efforts by Sen. Ted Kennedy and Gov. Jerry Brown to replace him as the Democratic presidential candidate. Gov. Ronald Reagan buried Carter in a landslide. Republicans also gained control of the Senate and picked up 34 House seats.
Democratic incumbent President Lyndon Johnson was in trouble in 1968 because of his handling of the Vietnam War. Johnson wisely decided to drop out of the race after a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary by Sen. Eugene McCarthy and the entry of Sen. Robert Kennedy into the race. Although the assassination of Kennedy robbed Democrats of their best candidate, they nearly won anyway in a close popular vote. They retained control of the House and Senate.
Obama may be an even weaker candidate than Carter was. Unemployment in the Carter administration was only 7.5% compared to over 9% under Obama. Many voters are very upset about Obama's health care program. As in 1968 there are widespread student protests about a national policy.
Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush were all voted out of office with unemployment around 7.5%. President Ronald Reagan is the only post Depression president to win reelection with unemployment over 6%, but Reagan had gotten unemployment down to 7.4% from 10%. If Obama is the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate will likely suggest voters ask themselves Reagan's question in 1980: "are you better off than you were four years ago."
Republicans have already taken control of the House under Obama and will likely take over the Senate if GOP candidates can run against Obama. Replacing Obama as the presidential candidate would free Democrats challenging Republican incumbents in the House of the need to support Obama's policies. Democrats could suggest that voters needed to change the House of Representatives as well as the White House.
Democrats who think the Republican candidates have too many problems need to review the 1992 election. Their candidate in 1992, Gov. Bill Clinton, won in spite of questions about how he avoided military service and possible involvement in the White Water savings and loan scandal that eventually led to his impeachment.
Changes in filing deadlines mean those wanting to challenge Obama cannot wait as long to decide as Bobby Kennedy did in 1968. A few Democrats must decide quickly whether to challenge Obama or risk sitting by and watching Republicans choose the next president.